Govern­ment gets tough on pol­luters of Li­tani River

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON -

BEIRUT: The govern­ment took ac­tion Thurs­day to shut down over 75 un­li­censed fac­to­ries for their role in pol­lut­ing the Li­tani River, care­taker In­dus­try Min­is­ter Hus­sein Hajj Hasan said in a tele­vised ap­pear­ance.

The state also is­sued warn­ings the same day to around 80 li­censed fac­to­ries for pol­lut­ing the river.

Nonethe­less, Li­tani River Au­thor­ity head Nas­sim Abou Hamad said more needs to be done.

“The ma­jor pol­luters can be counted on two hands and th­ese are the ones that need to have ac­tion taken against them,” Abou Hamad told The Daily Star.

Dur­ing his tele­vised news con­fer­ence, Hajj Hasan said that dozens of un­li­censed fac­to­ries in the Bekaa Val­ley will be shut down.

“Yes­ter­day, the min­istry took the de­ci­sion to close 79 un­li­censed fac­to­ries that are pol­lut­ing the Li­tani River,” Hajj Hasan said.

He added that ini­tially 117 un­li­censed fac­to­ries were to be shut­tered – but 38 of them later ap­plied for li­censes and, as a re­sult, were al­lowed to re­main in oper­a­tion.

But Hajj Hasan said an­other de­ci­sion was in the works tar­get­ing fac­to­ries that do have li­censes.

Ac­cord­ing to the min­is­ter, there are cur­rently 261 li­censed fac­to­ries pol­lut­ing the Li­tani River. “Of the 261, 189 fac­to­ries are work­ing to stop their pol­lu­tion, while 72 have not yet acted. A de­ci­sion will be taken in around a month and a half to close the fac­to­ries that have not stopped pol­lut­ing.”

Abou Hamad wel­comed the news Thurs­day as a “good first step.” “There is no po­lit­i­cal cover any­more from the ma­jor par­ties and lead­ers for th­ese big fac­to­ries that con­tribute the most to the pol­lu­tion.”

The LRA head cited Si­coma, Liban Lait and Tan­mia as among those “big” fac­to­ries. “They all have plenty of money to in­stall proper fil­ter­ing and meth­ods to pre­vent pol­lu­tion – so why don’t they?”

On its web­site, Tan­mia, founded in 1972, claims it is “one of the lead­ing chicken meat pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies in Le­banon and the Mid­dle East.” Si­como is a ma­jor card­board re­cy­cling mill, while Liban Lait is one of the coun­try’s largest dairy farms. Late last month, Prime Min­is­ter-des­ig­nate Saad Hariri spon­sored the sign­ing of a deal to es­tab­lish a waste treat­ment plant for Liban Lait.

“The pub­lic is protest­ing the pol­lu­tion of the Li­tani and now ev­ery­one re­al­izes that this is no joke.

“Now it’s time for the li­censed fac­to­ries to be [cracked down on],” Abou Hamad said.

The state-run Na­tional News Agency re­ported in Septem­ber Hajj Hasan is­sued warn­ings to the 261 fac­to­ries. At the time, he also called for the 117 un­li­censed fac­to­ries to rec­tify their le­gal sta­tus and said 27 more fac­to­ries had been tem­po­rar­ily closed over pol­lu­tion con­cerns.

The Li­tani River has been mak­ing head­lines as ac­tivists, of­fi­cials and min­is­ters have pushed for so­lu­tions to the decades-old is­sue in Le­banon’s longest river. Years of ne­glect and poor man­age­ment have left the river heav­ily pol­luted.

Among the causes, Hajj Has­san pre­vi­ously listed waste­water, in­dus­trial waste, pes­ti­cides, med­i­cal waste and waste pro­duced by refugee camps. –

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